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John Wohlstetter Education. (2012) 'Sleepwalking With the Bomb.'




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Israel 9, Khrushchev 9, Iran 7, Us 7, North Korea 6, Prague 3, China 3, United States 3, Moscow 3, Hiroshima 3, India 3, Pakistan 3, Russia 3, Leonid Brezhnev 2, Nikita Khrushchev 2, Jeffrey Goldberg 2, Vietnam 2, Washington 2, Manhattan 2, U.s. 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    John Wohlstetter  Education.   
   (2012) 'Sleepwalking With the Bomb.'  

    September 29, 2012
    8:00 - 9:00am EDT  

right? what was that? a very different world in terms of the skill set. lifelong learners and how we train teachers differently in the front end and get more employers building partnerships with high school and middle school and elementary schools and articulating them. i met with a dozen superintendents in the room and a dozen ceos and this is more blue-collar manufacturing and that kind of work. had a conversation with high school graduates. the room got quiet. how often do you talk together? when the secretary comes to town. they had never met. great educators and business leaders and all in the same community and invested and not going anywhere. have to break those barriers. we can facilitate the local level of conversations happening as well.
we need that. we need business and education to get a. .. how do know that, why did you do that. at some point they did it because they had always done it that way or they had some sort of rule that wasn't based on any research. and so i sort of went around campaigns some degree skepticism
about a lot of practices that were taking place and the way people were spending money, time and resources. as i learned about people starting in academia, these randomized control trials within being adopted by people in the political world. i learned more about the innovations of data and targeting based on, basically revolutionized campaigns in the last decade. this was a major shift, and in addition to all of these new forms of research changing the way campaigns operate is they have this kind of cultural tension between a lot of the old practices and the way, the new, empirical movement. >> more on booktv's afterwards tonight at 10 p.m. eastern and sunday at 9 p.m. eastern and pacific on c-span2. >> you're watching booktv.
>> now john wohlstetter talks about the threat of nuclear weapons today and discusses what can be done to safeguard against the ultimate catastrophe. this is about an hour. >> good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for joining me today, although i don't have something cheery for you. i was thinking how to start this. wasn't as nice as the very fine english historian who must've been thinking the same thing to write something in today's "wall street journal" opinion page for me, and the title of it is, let's all prepare for the cataclysm. we all think of august as a month where everybody is at the beach, sort of chilling out and all that in this heavily political season, just enjoying life. and for those of us in washington, congress is in recess, which generally speaking
means a lot of lobbyists leave town so there's a lot less traffic. it's a rather nice time. robbers wanted to bring us back to a little historical reality, so over the last century among the peaceful events that have occurred, in august of 1914 world war i began. on the last day of august 1939 hitler decided to invade poland the next day. in 1945, two atomic bomb's in this very week. 1945 led to the end of the second world war. 1961, the berlin wall was put up in the middle of august. in 1964, the tank and gulf incident which made to the ledger escalation incident and did not took place. in 1968 with the prague spring
was ended with czechoslovakia as those now then, was invaded by leonid brezhnev's order, and soviet tanks were rolling down the streets of prague. in 1981, an event that was not as dull, lech walesa started the polish solidarity movement. and in 1990, saddam decided he should have 19 not 18 provinces so he moved into kuwait on the second of august. and in 1991 just to make sure that we could wrap things out, that was the revolution in russia that brought down gorbachev's government. it was a short-lived one and, of course, the revolutionaries in turn a few days later were upended. so nothing ever happens in august. sort of like that old greta garbo movie eight years ago, grand hotel, nothing ever happens. so we can all relax and enjoy
the rest of the summer. that said, what i'd like to do today is very briefly talk about why i wrote the book and what it aims to do. and then pick out three other more pressing problems, talk about them a bit and then wind up with overall, some of the things that are particularly in this movement towards global nuclear zero. i decided three years ago to begin the process of writing this book, because it occurred to me that there was an opportunity that i don't believe had really existed in earlier decades. but strategists had in the immediate generation after the end of the second world war had to sort of gas at, -- guess at him had to imagine scenarios in
the abstract, what would happen if this and if that? now, another half-century having passed since the cuban missile crisis, there's enough historical experience to enable us to look at the fundamental problems that nuclear weapons have posed into two-thirds century they have been part of since they changed the world forever. the first explosion in new mexico. and, therefore, we can take an integrated look at these problems of high level block, dealt into detail where necessary for illustration, but present an integrated coherent set of problems of what lessons we've learned from them. and it is an umbrella lesson, the 12th lesson at the end, that i come up with which is that the fundamental thrust of nuclear policy is to avoid what
i call the apocalyptic trinity. the apocalyptic trinity is that of genocide, suicide, and surrender. you always want to have not apocalyptic choices. i'll return to that a couple of times during my remarks, but there's also maybe a 13th lesson, which is never write a book with more than three lessons. [laughter] but in any event, with that i want to pick out three areas from what i covered, and talk about some of the illustrate problems there that are particularly pressing, and then turn to the umbrella problem as it were, nuclear zero. i'm hoping that the book, by the way, is the use to lay persons, also to a lot of policymakers who have not had a lot of experience, and even some of use perhaps here and there, but specifically try to bring this
to the general public in a way that i think really hasn't been possible before, because now we have concrete examples to illustrate things rather than talk about abstractions. so i would say the three problems am going to focus on today are the problem iran poses, the problem that india and pakistan have posed. iran being the problem of the revolutionary state in pursuit of nuclear weapons. the problem with pakistan and india being civilian energy as a springboard for getting nuclear weapons. and the third one, specialized problem of small powerful ability as evidenced by what is called electromagnetic pulse. i'll talk about that when we get to it. and the implications for missile defense. and then from then i will move on to conclude. in the case of iran, which i think we can say this every now
again in the nose, and i saw just yesterday a story about will israel deliver an october surprise. the fundamental problem here is, is the possibility of a cuban missile crisis in the middle east. and to understand this, we briefly go back to what nikita khrushchev had in mind. khrushchev, in 1961, met in june with president kennedy, the enemy. and he pushed kennedy a round. kennedy himself said later he really beat me up. he decided that kennedy was not up to it, and kennedy said what about the possibility of -- i'm paraphrasing not having a transcript in front of me -- what about the possibility of miscalculation? you have to be careful. and khrushchev sent
miscalculation, miscalculation. i don't want to hear this word of miscalculation. i'm tired of hearing it. so in 1961, khrushchev decided partly, many because of the summit, that he could pushed kennedy a little further. so what he did was, working with the east german leader, they begin the berlin wall which was a flat violation of the 1945, four power agreement which gave occupied power to all four powers. then we saw the second shoe drop in october of 1962, which many of us lived through. i was 15. all of the jocular conversation on the school bus at that time was considerably more subdued for a couple more weeks. it was revealed, but we didn't find out until much later how close we came to nuclear war.
and then what we saw there was that kennedy and khrushchev realized right off the bat that there was a possibility that this thing would get out of hand. khrushchev had suspected kennedy as khrushchev told his son, sergei, he said, he will make more of a fuss and then agree. that was not nikita khrushchev's best calculation. a few your leaders after that he decided he made one too many miscalculations. and what happened there was that at the same time, and this was jeffrey goldberg interviewed fidel castro, a couple years ago, and castro admitted that he had wanted the first strike against the united states. the gist of the conversation, moscow had with him was, if this happens, you know what is going to happen to your island? it is going to disappear and you
with it. castro still wanted him to go ahead. it is also reported that, about 20 years later, castor renewed the request and moscow apparently said didn't we have this conversation before? this conversation before? so now you look at the situations in the mideast today. you have iran, and if iran goes nuclear you are going to have already the saudis have said that, publicly said they are prepared to go nuclear. several other gulf states will pipe bombs. pick up the phone, and by a few. how many petrodollars do you offer for how many bombs? nevermind this bit about a 20 year program. you just take the bombs and you put them underneath the aircraft, all those american have 16th, and you don't have to have fancy safety devices
because they won't have time to figure that stuff out. now you've got in close proximity, hundreds of miles away in some cases, with supersonic jets, and bases that would be highly vulnerable, small countries with even a small number of nuclear weapons can effectively obliterate them. and very little communication. there was no hotline in 1962. that was bad enough when the soviets wanted to send a message to the ambassador wanted to send it to moscow. they give it to western union. you hope the kid didn't stop to see his girlfriend on the way to the office. so it was very much a catch as catch can, and will be four or five people with nuclear weapons, answer all work and no margin for error. the permutations are very, very scary to say the least. so ultimately the only resolution of this is to stop iran from getting nuclear weapons and a revolutionary
state is not going to honor any agreement it makes to abandon them. you'll have to get regime change, and preferably brought about from within, get positive regime change. but the lesson out of this, broader lesson is that revolutionary powers, you can't negotiate away revolutionary power position. you have to defeat them. in 1962 though we saw the consequence of miscalculation. and you can easily have one here. so war may come about not by design, but all it takes is one mideast castro is ready to have one, and you have heard some of the pronouncements of ahmadinejad, the president or the supreme guy and they may not be reading from the same hymn book we are, to say the least. now, with regard to the india and pakistan, what you learned is that civilian nuclear energy is just next to a nuclear capability. and here's some of the
arithmetic of nuclear proliferation. you look first at 3.5% enriched uranium power in the reactor, and you say okay, weapons grade, full weapons grade is 93.5%. so they're not that far along. actually it can be shown arithmetically, and i show this in the book, i don't want to go through because we -- it's relatively simple when you see it on paper. you've done 80%, not 18, but 80% of the separation work separating the uranium you want, uranium-235 isotope from the rest of it, when you've gotten to 3.5%. when you get to 20%, 19.75, which is medical grade
research, you have done 97% of the separation work. so, i mean just very quickly, if one out of every 140 atoms is the isotope you want, when you get down to one out of five which is where your medical research grade is, you've got rid of almost all of these that 97% or 96% of the separation has been done. you've gotten rid of 135 unwanted atoms. you are just about there. and there are a couple of rules that relate to this. you and i guess i unconsciously channeled herman cain. my rules, i don't have 9-9-9. i have 11-one-one, and 10-10-10. there's a lot of rounding in here, 10, 20, 30% of it all gets
their indiana but it's a lot easier to remember. the first one, the 11-one-one-one is the timeline. it takes approximately 11 months to get these calculations which are in the book, 11 months ago from uranium ore to 3.5% enriched uranium. it then takes about a month to go from enriched commercial and medical grade, and about a week to go from medical grade to weapons grade, and about a day to put the weapon together. the device was assembled in less than 24 hours. so that's one. now, another one is 10-10-10-10. and this is materials great. if you start with 15 metric tons of uranium, you're going to wind up after going through three
with 15 kilograms of enriched uranium, start with the iranian -- uranium ore. that's enough fuel. reason well-designed uranium weapon. so you go through a tenfold production. you go from uranium ore to uranium for nuclear power. you go to another tenfold reduction to get the medical grade and the third tenfold reduction, these are all roughly around, and you have your fuel for a bomb. there are a couple of other kinds of things they give you an idea of what you're dealing with here. hindsight, the fourth is the difference between a crew designed uranium bomb, which needs about 60 kilograms, 140 or so pounds, of enriched uranium to a plutonium bomb -- there are
estimates lower than six kilograms, but that's a conservative one. there are estimates that are 4 and even more. and that's where a well-designed plutonium bomb. so you've got these fundamental metrics which you are working with. another one, and this one is sort of a good news-bad news thing. the bad news is worse than the good news. and that is that if you have a crude nuclear device, actually it could pre-detonate and most of the yield would be gone. in any sequence of doubling, and what you're doing when you get -- i don't want to go into -- there is more of it in the book, but basically what happens is you are splitting the atoms you are more than doubling the neutron count. these neutrons that are going to be ones that are going to be bombarding the nuclei. you go through a bunch of doublings and its were like this thing on a chessboard where the
team puts one piece of wheat on the first one and, you know, you race to the challenge. by the time the first 32, the kingdom is fine. he is broke long before he gets to the end of it. allows for doublings in any sequence released 95% of the energy. the first release 1% of energy. the next in release 4%. and then you get to five, then you get to 95 at the end, half of it in the last doubling. so that sounds like a few have a bomb the pre-detonates, you're done, right? we don't have to worry. well, here's the bad news. the bomb that destroyed the world trade center -- sorry, that went off in the garage of the world trade center in 1993 was about two-thirds of the time of conventional explosives.
at 1% of a hiroshima level bomb, which is 14 kilotons, you are releasing 200 times the energy of that bomb that had been placed better would have toppled one tower into another. in other words, it's going to be a terrible mess and there are a lot of terrorists out there who say they don't need of royals -- rolls-royce. a jalopy will do. this is something that also pertains to iran. they're talking to iran doesn't have a missile. and that's true. and we don't know, their rocketry is doing much better than north korea. north korea may have to go back to rocket camp. which is not distressing in the slightest. in the case, however, the iranians they're having pretty good success. and that comes down to miniaturizing your warhead enough so it will fit inside a missile nosecone or any bomb that is not too heavy to be
carried by an aircraft, or if you really advanced, a small number of nations are, inside an artillery shell. but what have we been talking about since 9/11? hasn't the whole focus been what has been called the unconventional threats. is the bomb in a shipping container? it's the bomb inside a van. that bomb does not have to be a well-designed device that is compact and advanced enough to fit inside a missile warhead. it can be a crude device of the erosion of on tight but we didn't test because we knew it would work. south africa built a half dozen of them in the '80s. they never tested them. they know those things work. and you put that inside a van and you set it off, or put it in a shipping container and you set it off in a port.
so why are we looking we talk about iran about weapons capability when a device, and devices used to indicate something that can now be weaponizing to fit on a missile, on awarded, or a shell or something like that. when that is part of the threat. if a bomb goes off in manhattan harbor, a hero she must size, killed a few hundred thousand people, we may not even have the signature but we don't have a signature for necessary and iranian bomb so how will we know where to retaliate? so when the administration talks about that it makes me nervous. the focus of what we've been talking about since 9/11 is something quite different. the third want to talk about
briefly is electromagnetic pulse. again, i don't want to repeat details of the text, but basically you set off a nuclear weapon at high altitude, and paradoxically for this purpose, i noted in the text, it is better suited than a hydrogen bomb. and you set it off after let's say 300 miles over chance and it is possible in a worst-case that the infrastructure of the continental united states, the rating is -- the radius is 1470 miles at that altitude according to congressional report, could take out our electronic infrastructure and we would be catapulted back, short order, to what life was like before thomas edison. well, there are disputes on this. some people say maybe only 20 or 30%. it would be a huge event and there's also another possibili possibility, as jim woolsey came up with this one, the talk, i
heard jim speak in the spring. he said what do you do if you have one of these geomagnetic solar storms. and if we had one as powerful as in 1859 it could zip out the entire infrastructure. so how do you negotiate with the sun? for those who want to negotiate a way this threat. but at least the iranian threat, missile defense can, if properly deployed, can enable us to shoot down a small attack of this kind. the current generation missile defense, not designed to shoot down a trajectory that goes up like this, but rather midcourse. so we would have to work on it but you would have a picket fence to try to prevent a catastrophic strike. at the same time we invest a few billion dollars, you can get back up your electrical systems. right now it would be several years before major transformers are brought back online.
so the lesson out of this is that catastrophic vulnerability, low number catastrophic vulnerability is something you should never permit if you can avoid it. and, of course, i did mention at the end of the india-pakistan but it was implied in what i said, the lesson there is civilian energy is right next door to a nuclear weapons program in terms of putting it together, especially if you're not trying to get an elegantly designed device. which brings me to nuclear zero. and the administration floated earlier this year a proposal to cut as low as 300 weapons from where we are now. and the administration said well you know, we haven't decided but these are trial balloons as we call them in washington. now, this is based upon among other things a belief that all you need is a small number of weapons.
well, here are the problems with that. first of all he think anyone else thinks like you. this is called mirror imaging trade. but look at what happened in 1973 win, 11 years after the cuban missile crisis there was a mideast war, the yom kippur war went on for about three weeks in october. and toward the end of it, brezhnev opportunistically and provisational he decided to try and see if he could introduce soviet troops in the middle east. he sent down transport planes. they were going to fly in to the airspace. we warned them not to. our naval ships were eyeball to eyeball with the russian fleet. and then the transcript that was released about 10 years ago by henry kissinger in a book called crises, conversation with richard nixon, president nixon says to him, you know we were close to nuclear confrontation today.
now, what had changed since 1962 was that american superiority had shrunk. the russians were five years from passing us in numbers of nuclear weapons. but they already were feeling, earlier in 1970, leonid brezhnev had told the party conference in prague that by 1985 the correlation of forces will have shifted irreversibly and the soviet unions favor and we would be able to work our will. that did not prove to be much better forecast than khrushchev in 1961. it's an operational question. if one or more parties to a crisis think that it matters, and behave different as a result of changes, they matter to at minimum it raises the risk in a crisis. at maximum it occurred as the 1973, it could cause a crisis to end differently.
so we look at china and we are assuming that china is not at the time of the huge military buildup, the biggest since the soviet 25 year buildup in the '60s, '70s and early '80s. china, which is unquestionably pushing a dominance in the western pacific, that they have a low number of weapons, they have more weapons than us, they may change their behavior in a crisis. it doesn't matter whether we think it should matter or not. have an abstract debate them what has been called at times nuclear theology by whatever you want to call common nuclear doctrine, it doesn't matter. if they think differently and act on it, that will change the way the crisis unfolds and could very well increase the risk of war. so with this in mind, bear in mind that people who we worry about the most outgoing, not going to follow your example as you reduced to make their weapons more valuable. we don't have the ability to
have any idea to verify how many weapons exist in countries the size of china or russia. we couldn't even find after the gulf war and before the second iraq war, we couldn't even find all the wmds were looking for. we had to have defectors help us. these things are hard to do. the end of the second iraqi freedom we found 12 of jet planes buried in the sand. if you could very cruise missiles i mile down. so we don't have any ability to find stuff. it is a breakout we don't have a substitute for nuclear weapons, and nuclear weapons were one of the things that have deterred a major full scale war, though you have had major regional conflicts like vietnam and several in the middle east. we don't have a substitute. some of the prominent former secretaries of state are pushing the idea of nuclear zero, make it quite clear that they're
looking far into the future and a lot of things have to be in place before we do this. but it's possible that popular opinion could as it has happened from time to time stampede governments to do things they are not ready to do. for example, one time it was for the better, that was to end atmospheric testing and it was popular outrage over some of the early tests and their aftereffects. and the worry about them, that led to the ending of atmospheric testing. on the other hand, the europeans who we had promised to put neutron weapons, neutron bombs stop the russian tanks and helmut schmidt had put his administration on a, and carter refers to under pressure. it was a propaganda campaign against the.
popular opinion can stampede governments is not able to explain conventionally why we shouldn't do something. nuclear zero does have a warmth to it. but the risk of prematurely going to zero and finding yourself with the worst countries in the world reducing formerly hidden weapons is the problem of the clandestine casualty, which is called by the great strategist, herman kahn, is something we had better keep in mind. and until we have a solution to that problem, rushing towards nuclear zero could prove to be catastrophic. i will close with this. two things. one, on the downside and in one thing on the outside. the downside is that it appears the risk of some sort of nuclear mute is going. and if that threshold is crossed, it may not be possible to change the world again irrevocably, and it may not be possible to go back to maybe
permanently worse off. the administration does not appear to be fully alive to this risk. it is not doing everything it can to stop iran, as one example. we could go into that in question period if you would like. but at the end of the second world war, it was bought by most policymakers, probably most members of the public, and sort and most of the scientist who worked on the manhattan project, that it was inevitable that within a decade, or virtually inevitable that we would be in a nuclear war. it didn't happen. we have to continually work, pedal to the metal in every way we can so that we can prevent this catastrophe from happening and avoid not only suicide or genocide, but also surrender. we don't want to be in that position. we don't want to be in a position where with a half a
million americans dead, and an american president -- establish an attack that will kill millions. and all out attack on iran will kill maybe 50 million. the total of the entire second world war would die within 30 days. i don't think frankly that allows, millions of dead americans, an american president could do that. but the whole point is you don't want to be in the position in the first place. avoiding an apocalyptic options. and with that, i think it's as good enough time to stop, and i will be delighted to answer questions. and i'll ask steve who has a sharper eye the need to pick people out. thank you. [applause] >> i hope you're all feeling cheery. [laughter] we are going to take questions. is there a question?
>> john, i think this is really important that this book came out at this point. and if nothing else, that people are aware of nothing else, it's that this topic of nuclear strategy has been dropped as a major theme in american public policy since the reagan era. when people were lulled to sleep, thinking that we had solved this and had moved on. and now it's back. the emp has not been solved apparently, that threat has not been resolved and we don't know what we are doing with iran. and so i think it's important to get people recovering the vocabulary and language, even talking about this. it's not taught anymore. nuclear strategy is not taught anymore at the universities. we don't have programs, and i think that's the most important
thing you've done with the publication of this book. i want to ask you specifically about the most immediate threat which is iran. it takes so little time to come to the development of a crude bomb. haven't they done it? and does anybody know? they are talking bravely about annihilating israel, doing various other things, but why haven't they moved if they're that far along? and if it is so easy? >> well, it isn't easy, but on the other hand, part of the problem is that even with all the inspections, we don't know exactly how far they are alone. they could theoretically at least on the amount of, it would be in short order by some calculations, before the end of this year have enough material on hand to assemble a crude weapon. and if that's the case, they could assemble one without
testing and we wouldn't know. and the only hope i have on that is that from iran's standpoint it is more beneficial to them to test like north korea did, and immediately put the world on notice we have something. mind you, north korea's test was a classic case of one of those designers embarrassment that yielded less than a kiloton and it would be laughed at, but already there was more the designer, for eternity. circumspection indeed with north korea. just think what iran did last year, when it is believed not to be nuclear, and i'm assuming it's in their interest to be test. they can set one off and will pick up the signature seismically. the signatures are different from an earthquake.
an earthquake you get tremors in advance and then you get a big shake. so you can find those things and certainly from their standpoint it would be of interest to do so. but a year ago, october or was it, or november, where they're going to set off a bomb in a georgetown restaurant in an effort to kill the saudi ambassador and some prominent unnamed georgetown restaurant. i took that when a little extra personally because living in d.c., i go to restaurants in georgetown las. [laughter] and so they also talked about putting something in front of the saudi embassy. i took that even more personall because i live across the street from the saudi embassy. there's no scenario under which the structural slightly be standing. talking about something a just a few hundred yards away, it's like a truck bomb going off or
something. so they were ready to do that, even when they were not on what we know are a nuclear state. now, they did say that and didn't say guess what? we're nuclear you don't believe us? trias. the bottom line is we should not be negotiating with them at all. they have a record of using negotiation to stall for decades. what we want to do is put all your sanctions pressure on now, the highest level of financial and energy and refining the -- 60% of their oil has to be refined outside the country. you choke them off, because if you don't do that, they have time to adjust to each new level of sanctions, like gradual escalation in vietnam. it makes no sense to do it this
way. when sanctions were first proposed on event back in 2003, they did not have a compatible railway system with russia. a few years later they did. we give them time. this is not a good thing. there's a long list of what the international atomic energy agency has discovered, and i won't do the full list, but a few things to tell you whether program is about, this mind you, iaea inspections, are not designed to catch cheating. but what do they catch? they're working on a neutron initiator which is way to emit extra neutrons to start a nuclear explosion. they're working on international -- they're not doing it to deliver medical supplies 5000 miles. and there are various other components, especially components, that are identified with nuclear weapons.
why would you want a high altitude trigger, and electrical true that works at high altitudes? it's the kind of things using nuclear devices. so we should conclude, and nevermind it's about whether the other weapons capability, a nuclear capability could be the device that goes in a truck. they are working on it on every evidence that we can see. and, therefore, we need to act very soon. if they don't i think israel, better than 50/50 will act and probably before the election. [inaudible] >> that's very soon. and i think the reason, frankly, bruce, israel is likely to. because of what i call the the two-handed sort of schizophrenic policy of this administration. obama's people point all the time look at the unprecedented defense cooperation and missile defense and other things, and it is unprecedented.
well, it's precedented because the bush administration beforehand had begun that ratcheting up of cooperation between with the israel defense forces after 9/11. that cooperation is a two-way street. the israelis have designed equipment that has saved the lives of americans in afghanistan. and, indeed, self sealing bandages, it's one of the reasons it saves lives of people who have been hit, improved wound healing. so it's a two-way thing. they're constantly talking, swapping tactics, things about drones. so a lot of good things there. but what the right hand giveth with defense, the left-handed diplomatic takes away with pressure to free settlement, something the palestinians have never asked for, israel was told it should negotiate from, what were called by the administration 1967 borders,
which were the 1939 cease-fire lines, which are not borders. and the palestinians immediately adopted that. so then there was a series of breach in the spring about a possible is restructuring up in "the new york times." and some of them were traced to officials in the administration. and there were things about an israeli strike wouldn't work. there were things about well, they wouldn't be used before the strike but he got a plane crippled in the attack, might be able to land there, that kind of a thing and then immediately frozen out. there was a series of orchestrated leaks. i won't go down the full list, and so the israelis withdrew their assurance that they've given last year that they would notify the administration before striking. you have all these leaks in the paper. does anybody think they can keep a secret? so and there are other leaks involving other things. the administration has done with
the israelis look at, you see british and al qaeda operating in the peninsula. and by bragging that we had done that, we had to extricate the agent before he was found which apparently we did. but the british were not happy. so the long and the short of it is that they fear, i think, it's also famous that prime minister netanyahu and barack obama don't plan any joint vacations anytime in the foreseeable future. and so i think they are looking at pre-november 6. and the reason for that is after november 6, if obama wins, he's unfound. he no longer has to worry about reelection. and i think, frankly, for that real line that is most likely to be one the israelis are looking at, if they knew that romney was going to win and are confident they could wait for 2013 they
would rather do that because then the u.s. would probably join in. but that's a chance i don't think they feel are necessary can take so they're going to take a fresh look at any early october, their plans are in place. and they have a higher opinion of chances of success the obama administration has, or other quarters. >> i'm skip gilleland, i'm one of the board members here at the discovery institute. i'm an engineer and i have a little bit of expertise in commercial nuclear power. i think it's important to understand, and i don't think you're saying this, but it's important to understand that in order to destroy israel, or even tel aviv for that matter, it's going to take multiple
thermonuclear weapons, and none of these terrorist regimes have the capability of delivering anything on that scale. so i think the worse case scenario is to be some cheesy science project dirty bomb or something with low you but you float into the seattle harbor or whatever on a container ship, or something like tel aviv harbor or whatever. so there's no like destroy the world scenario that's likely, in my opinion, with any of these terrorist regimes. and i think it's important for people who don't understand nuclear weapons to know that, to realize that. so the thing that occurred to me was you said, you were saying that if we had such a thing happen, like a hiroshima type weapon go off in one of the harbors or something like that,
we wouldn't know at the time it's too late to know how to respond, where do you respond. so i guess my question would be, that's still the case now, how do we know where to respond? i guess other than iran and korea, how do we know even how to begin to respond now while we think these guys are developing their science project weapon? >> let me take the last part first. we have nuclear forensics for certain countries. we know the signatures of the weapons. russia, former soviet union, those weapons, we have signatures to chinese weapons. we have signatures for french weapons. we have signatures from british weapons, not that we think they are likely to use them. we have signatures -- with some on india-pakistan from some advanced sampling techniques. i'm not expert on just how much you can get out of the underground explosion, but there
may be some things that get into the atmosphere, small quantities you may be able to have some. and if there are, maybe we even have a little bit out of north korea, but we don't with iran. the second thing is, it's not going to take thermonuclear weapons. a single hiroshima weapon will, if dropped in an air burst, will have a radius what they call the five psi circle, five pounds per square inch. of roughly radius would be roughly, let's say a half-mile going around, so it's a mile in diameter. and while you wouldn't destroy all the cities if you have three or four of those going off in tel aviv, three or for those going off, you might have air bursts and also ground bursts. and you do that because you want the ground bursts to kick up,
you know, countless thousands, or hundreds of thousands of tons of for you active material, which will be highly lethal in the immediate area of the most intense radioactivity released within the first couple of weeks. as you get further along, it's less dangerous but you could have very easily a few hundred thousand fatalities. and the country the size of israel, let's just put that into perspective of the united states. let's assume by the way that they leave jerusalem alone or that they think they have enough accuracy to midwest jerusalem, they will, and it doesn't get somewhere else. i might add if i were the palestinians i would be a little nervous. i don't know if i have enough faith in the iranian rockets fired by rockets that they might not land in the wrong place. but if you have that and you have, let's say 100 or 200,000 in each of those two cities,
three or 400,000, we have about 45 times the population as israel. so if you had, say, 200,000 dead from two or three bombs, you are looking at, or even we will go lower and say 100,000. you are looking at 9 billion, 200,000 israeli dead. you are looking at 9 million american casualties for our country which is 45 or so times, 40 times 8 million. the total we have lost in all the wars going back to the revolution is something along the lines of two or 3 million or something. that may include wounded. i once saw the number but it's not coming to me. and what the impact of that would be on the jewish state, so it wouldn't literally laid everything to waste but it would
be a catastrophe of unprecedented magnitude. and, of course, then if you're talking about the gulf states, they are very vulnerable, too. there's not a large number of cities in kuwait that would be targets. the bottom line is we have to take the threat very seriously. i might add that the pakistanis are working on thermonuclear weapon and they have weapons advanced enough to put in short-range artillery missiles, 25, 30-mile range missiles, 40 miles or something. this seems like a popgun but it tells you their design work is very advanced. so i would be very worried. i think the effect on israel would be catastrophic. it would be an echo of the holocaust, and, of course, the threats they could explode elsewhere. so even high school design weapons, that was one of my points, they can make a terrible mess and we really need to focus on stopping them before they get
there. >> i can't evaluate your technical competence, which i will leave to skip, but i think you might be affordable on your kind of human, the human factor, how you see human nature in terms of making decisions as to whether how to use them. and i want to return to your example with jeffrey goldberg, interviewed, can't quote it exactly because i think it's suggest perhaps a little different breeding in terms of rationality, irrationality purpose, and so forth. goldberg said, i mentioned, the letter to khrushchev, the soviet are at the height of the crisis in which he recommended that the soviets consider launching a nuclear strike against the u.s.,
if the americans attacked cuba, invoking the legal right of self-defense. at a certain point it seemed logical for you to recommend the soviets on the u.s. does what you recommend still seem logical now? the answer, after i see what i've seen, knowing what i know now, it wasn't worth it at all. so this could be read in the following way, far from being a cold-blooded first strike, it was the action of a desperate man who felt threatened, who later on when he looks at it afterwards and seized the crazy things one does in one feels this kind of pressure thanks, as he said later, this raises questions about nuclear weapons as being much more likely to be launched in a rational pressure, intense situation, as opposed to concrete attempts to attain
rational political objectives. it's not a tool for rational policy. it's something that is released in a climate. at least that's the way one could read that section. castro hasn't changed. is still a marxist. >> well, first of all, what has changed between then and now but what is change is his attitude about his own actions within the context of the crisis spent i avoid calling him a rational. i use the term fanatic and lead to the doctors to question about what's rational and irrational. he did renew the request which was reported in the 1980s. the thing is that even in response to an invasion of this island, the idea of unleashing a huge nuclear holocaust that would bring down, that would result in more than 100 million people killed just so he could preserve his rule, of course
his island would have been obliterated the same time, that i would want to hold that up to some rational decision making but if we look at the middle east today, the supreme guy who was the supreme authority at present in iran is not someone i would want to trust with nuclear decision, or for that matter -- [talking over each other] >> i'm not saying -- you are using the word rational and a rational. i don't even bother with those terms because i don't want to get into. what i want to do is say that i think we have reason to believe that ayatollah khamenei and ahmadinejad and others who think like them may decide to use nuclear weapons, whether you want to make cultural, how can we say this theology is rational, it doesn't matter to me. the point is there are some people who have fewer inhibitions of that using nuclear weapons.
khrushchev and kennedy thought to pull back immediately when khrushchev realized he finally understood the meaning of the word miscalculation. castro did not take that view. and that, we have to worry about that and you're in the middle east where you have famously rough neighborhood where people don't trust each other at all, or you don't have a superpower sponsor who could restrain, as khrushchev did, in 1962, who could restrain a surrogate. a client. so the point is that you do not want to have the stuff spread. ideally you don't want to spread anywhere, but you certainly don't want to give it to a country like iran. it's not going to make the world a safe place and we should do everything possible to see that they do not. >> how do you evaluate the
possibility of cyber attacks by the united states and its allies like the one that disrupted the centrifuges we heard about in the past, as a tactics be? >> well, certainly anything we can do in cyber, where we have more skills than the other one is due, and there are reportedly others around besides the stuxnet that they found. anything that you can do is certainly a good thing. the question is, have we gotten to the point where we're running out of time. if this were six, seven years ago, eight years ago they were doing these things and you had that much more time, maybe you could buy more time. it's getting to the point now where most people believe this will be decided one way or another within the next year. cyber may not suffice, may not suffice to do it but certainly anything we can do, whether it's in sanctions or cyberattacks, or
working to try and -- the rebels, the green movement inside iran, which we unfortunately abandoned in what was foreseen at the time by many people, i take no special credit, lots of people said this, there's no chance they will give it up. they have been working on it for a quarter of a century, of course they would not. and we had the opportunity with regime off-balance to maybe bring it down. you don't know how it would've turned out that what what you try to do a situation like this is to get some of the guns to switch sides. we didn't give them a reason to. and so they're able to brutally suppress the green movement. had we publicly sided with them, announced we are working with them, ratcheted sanctions up to 100% of what we could do then, instantly putting them in economic extremists, and make quite clear that if you rise up we will be with you. we mgh